The present study examined the neuropathology of the lateral controlled cortical impact (CCI) traumatic brain injury (TBI) model in mice utilizing the de Olmos silver staining method that selectively identifies degenerating neurons and their processes. The time course of ipsilateral and contralateral neurodegeneration was assessed at 6, 24, 48, 72, and 168 h after a severe (1.0 mm, 3.5 M/sec) injury in young adult CF-1 mice. At 6 hrs, neurodegeneration was apparent in all layers of the ipsilateral cortex at the epicenter of the injury. A low level of degeneration was also detected within the outer molecular layer of the underlying hippocampal dentate gyrus and to the mossy fiber projections in the CA3 pyramidal subregions. A time-dependent increase in cortical and hippocampal neurodegeneration was observed between 6 and 72 hrs post-injury. At 24 h, neurodegeneration was apparent in the CA1 and CA3 pyramidal and dentate gyral granule neurons and in the dorsolateral portions of the thalamus. Image analysis disclosed that the overall volume of ipsilateral silver staining was maximal at 48 h. In the case of the hippocampus, staining was generalized at 48 and 72 h, indicative of damage to all of the major afferent pathways: perforant path, mossy fibers and Schaffer collaterals as well as the efferent CA1 pyramidal axons. The hippocampal neurodegeneration was preceded by a significant increase in the levels of calpain-mediated breakdown products of the cytoskeletal protein alpha-spectrin that began at 6 h, and persisted out to 72 h post-injury. Damage to the corpus callosal fibers was observed as early as 24 h. An anterior to posterior examination of neurodegeneration showed that the cortical damage included the visual cortex. At 168 h (7 days), neurodegeneration in the ipsilateral cortex and hippocampus had largely abated except for ongoing staining in the cortical areas surrounding the contusion lesion and in hippocampal mossy fiber projections. Callosal and thalamic neurodegeneration was also very intense. This more complete neuropathological examination of the CCI model shows that the associated damage is much more widespread than previously appreciated. The extent of ipsilateral and contralateral neurodegeneration provides a more complete anatomical correlate for the cognitive and motor dysfunction seen in this paradigm and suggests that visual disturbances are also likely to be involved in the post-CCI neurological deficits.